Continuing Tales

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 14 of 23

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I was almost relieved when I heard a knock at the door, though I hadn't yet looked in the mirror, washed my face free of the blood, or ran a comb through my hair. With a sharp intake of air when I jostled my arm standing, I moved to the door and let in Inspector Henderson and what seemed to be about a dozen men. Numbly, I moved to one of the couches, sat down, and waited for the storm of busyness to subside.

"You all right, Lane?" Henderson sat on the couch across from me and leaned forward, his eyes intent on me from behind the tinted lenses. He nodded to someone out of my line of sight, and the same medic as before sat beside me. After I nodded my permission, he rolled up my sleeve and began attending to my wound.

Gritting my teeth, I looked away and concentrated on Henderson. "I've been better, I'll admit. Nigel gets a bit grumpy when things don't go his way."

The inspector opened his mouth, then glanced at the officers checking for bugs and visibly forced back his questions.

I was grateful for the reprieve. There was a bigger question on my mind at the moment, one that had hit suddenly and without warning. One that made me remember every chilling comment Clark had ever made concerning the returned Superman.

What had happened to Nigel?

Superman had promised he'd take him to the police—I was sure of that. My headache hadn't been so bad that I'd forget something like that. And yet…Superman didn't lie. He told the truth. So if he had dropped off Nigel…where was the Englishman now? What could have gone wrong?

And was Superman all right?

Clark had told me Kryptonite was real. He had insisted it could hurt Superman—that it could kill him.

And if anyone would have thought to get himself a chunk of Kryptonite, it'd be Luthor, I was sure of it.

It was terribly unfair, I couldn't help but think, that the only options I could think of had Superman either hurt and dying…or a traitor.

"So, Lane?"

At Henderson's quiet prompting, I looked up, surprised to realize that most of the officers had packed up their equipment and left the apartment. The medic was just finishing up with the bandage on my arm.

I shook my head slightly, then waited for the medic to look at the bump on my head, dab it with some chemical that made me wrinkle my nose, and give me a pill to counter the pain throbbing its slow, steady way through my arm. Only after he asked a few final questions, gave me some last-minute instructions, nodded to his inspector, and left the apartment did I feel ready to talk.

"You sure you don't want him to look Kent over?" Henderson asked as soon as the door clicked shut behind the man.

"Clark wouldn't let him anywhere near," I said briefly. Reminded of my sleeping partner, I glanced toward the bedroom. I was certain he hadn't slept through all the commotion and even more certain that he was hiding in the bedroom until he was certain the medic was gone.

"So…" Henderson readied his tape recorder, then leaned back with exaggerated casualness. "Your bodyguards are in the hospital following a very strange accident; you're all banged up; I'm assuming Kent isn't that well since he hasn't showed yet; and you mentioned Superman bringing Nigel to the police—something I couldn't prove. I assume you'll explain eventually."

"It's not that complicated," I said.

And then I stood up and did something I couldn't explain even to myself.

I turned on the TV and watched for any mention of Superman.

Only when there was a sound bite mentioning that he had been sighted in Ecuador at a large mudslide did I turn back to Henderson and blurt out the whole story. "I followed a tip, went to an alley, overheard Nigel on the phone arranging a meeting with Bender—I'm assuming Sheldon Bender, Luthor's attorney—and quickly realized it was a trap due to the sudden appearance of the same men who grabbed me just a week ago, which is itself interesting considering that we thought they had died in that fire. Luthor still thinks I'm going to write the stories he wants me to write—or at least, that was the excuse given." I frowned thoughtfully. "Though it seems a bit flimsy if you ask me. I mean…attacking a journalist in broad daylight with some pretty clear intimations of letting her go afterward isn't the smartest thing to do. It's almost as if…" Once more, I found myself glancing toward the bedroom. "Almost as if he's baiting Clark."

"Interesting theory." Henderson cocked his head. "You have anything to back it up?"

"No." I stood and began to restlessly pace, a habit that allowed me to think more clearly. "Sometimes I get these inexplicable feelings…these thoughts, ideas that don't necessarily make sense right away. Clark calls it intuition. Sometimes they're right; very occasionally, they're not. Anyway, it just…just seems that Luthor has some kind of personal vendetta against Clark. He follows him to Smallville, threatens his parents, kidnaps him, keeps him for a month, throws me in a cell with him, then just lets him go free? It doesn't add up."

"He didn't 'let you go free,'" Henderson pointed out. "Superman rescued you."

"Yes, but Luthor hasn't come after us! It's almost as if he's daring us to prove anything. As if he's toying with us. With Clark." The idea scared me so much that goose-bumps rose up along my arms.

"Then the big question," Henderson said slowly, "is what Kent did to make himself Luthor's obsession."

"I existed."

Henderson and I both turned to watch as Clark entered the room, slumping down beside me as if the trek across the apartment had taken all his strength. He offered me a wan smile that I returned, though his words did nothing to make me feel any better.

"What do you mean?" Henderson asked cautiously. "No offense, but why would Luthor concern himself with a reporter, even one as good as you?"

"I recognized him for what he was right away," Clark said with a small shrug. "He knew I knew."

"How?" I interrupted.

Clark shifted a bit. "I…confronted him. Not the smartest thing, maybe, but I thought it might limit him if he knew someone was watching. I'd hoped he would reconsider his position. Instead, he took it as a challenge."

"Men in his position usually don't hear anything else." Henderson turned his attention back to me. "So, Superman rescued you from St. John, then?"

"No. I called him, but he didn't get there in time." The statement, spoken aloud, paused me. The only other time Superman had been too late—in fact, had never shown up—was the time Trask had almost killed Clark in Smallville.

And the day Luthor captured Clark.

With a slight shake of my head, I recalled myself to the conversation and finished filling Henderson in on what had happened, giving as many details as possible. Clark explained again how he had come to follow me there, adding the recommendation that Harv not be charged for the damage inflicted on the warehouse.

"And Superman said he'd bring Nigel and the other man straight to you," I finished firmly, pointedly not looking at Clark, hoping he wouldn't say something else to trample the bit of composure I had managed to bring to my thoughts. "I don't understand what happened."

"I think I might know." With a heavy sigh, Henderson leaned forward again. In a pointed movement, he removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. "As was said before, we've had inklings that Luthor isn't the philanthropist he appears to be. One of the reasons we've never been able to prove it—and a large part of why you two are being allowed to spearhead this investigation—is because there have been instances where cops have sold out."

"You think that's what happened here?" I asked doubtfully. My skepticism, I knew, was in large part due to the relief I felt to realize that there was an explanation for Superman's seeming failure…an explanation aside from Clark's unthinkable assertion.

"I called the precinct on my way here to ask if St. John had been processed. It seems two officers went missing this afternoon. I knew both of them—neither one has any immediate family in the area. If I had to guess, I'd say Luthor got to them and Nigel's now free because of it."

I didn't even have to look at Clark to know he didn't believe Henderson's story. I, on the other hand, grasped hold of it as a drowning man grabs the first piece of wood he sees, no matter how flimsy it might be.

Henderson tilted his chin toward the TV where the news was replaying clips of Superman in action. "Superman showed up at those mudslides just before one o'clock this afternoon—just a little bit after he met up with you, wouldn't you say?"

"Yes," I answered, a wealth of emotion evident in my voice. I couldn't restrain the bit of smile that wiped the last vestiges of doubt from my features. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Clark's jaw clench as he looked away. "He must have been in a hurry to respond to the cries for help and just left Nigel with the first officers he saw."

"That's our assumption. Of course," Henderson looked straight at Clark, "I'll be looking into it."

"And we'll be looking into getting Nigel back," I stated decisively. "He said he was looking forward to meeting with Bender—that Luthor had need of his attorney's services. If we watch Bender, we're likely to catch sight of Nigel or some other lackey of Luthor's when they meet up with him."

"Let's hope it's Nigel," Henderson said. "With your testimony, we'll have more than enough against him to book him."

"We'll conduct the stakeout," I warned the inspector. "This is still our investigation. Besides, if you have cops on the take, we can't risk word getting to Luthor. This is our best lead without Nigel already in custody."

"Agreed," Henderson said, complying so easily that my jaw dropped open. "This is why I allowed you two in on this from the beginning."

"Allowed?" I sputtered. "The only reason you have a case at all is because of us! In fact, so far I haven't seen that your people have done much besides lose us our key witness!"

"Lois." Clark's voice was soft, kind, and it instantly quieted my defensive anger. He turned to Henderson. "Thank you for helping us, Bill. Please, pass on our well-wishes to the officers who were hurt while protecting us."

A seed of remorse tangled within me, choking off the apology I should have offered. Clark's gentle hand on mine provided reassurance instead of condemnation, his words making it seem as if the condolences he gave were as much from me as from him.

"Thanks," Henderson said brusquely, slipping his glasses back on and shutting off the tape recorder. "We'll have to find out where Bender's keeping himself. If he's heard about today's events, he'll probably be laying low."

"Yeah," I said quietly with a regretful look that Henderson seemed to accept as an apology. He offered his own tight smile in return.

Another knock at the door distracted all three of us from our conversation.

"It's probably Perry," I said with a glance at the clock. "He said he'd drop by this evening."

As soon as I pulled the door open, Perry pulled me into an exuberant hug, though, tellingly, he didn't jostle my wound at all. "Darlin'! Are you all right? Clark, son!"

The next few minutes were pretty much a repeat of the last as we filled Perry in on the events of the day. However, he had his own surprise up his sleeve.

"Bender!" he exclaimed. "Cat just mentioned to me that the high-profile attorney had gone into hiding. Apparently, he claims that he's had too much media exposure and wants to get away for awhile."

I rolled my eyes, reluctant to accept any piece of information that came from Cat. After all, she was just a rumor-monger, not a real journalist.

"Does she know where Bender's hiding?" Clark asked, a spark of interest evident in his eyes. I couldn't resist scowling at him, though I comforted myself with the knowledge that he had given me his word nothing had happened between him and that floozy.

"She said something about the marina, but I'll check it out and get a more specific location," the Chief promised. "In the meanwhile, I expect you two to both rest up. Judas Priest, you both look like you just got through wrestlin' with a pair of wildcats!"

I glanced at Clark, seeing him with new eyes and realizing that Perry was right. Though he didn't look nearly as bad as he had just a few days before, Clark had lost a lot of color, dark smudges had returned to linger along portions of his face, and the air of energy and life that had gradually returned to his presence had vanished once more. Yet there was that same look of determination in his eyes as had been there since we'd interviewed Superman. That manner of having some mission he alone could—and must—complete.

It was reassuring to know he wasn't giving up; it was disconcerting to think of what he might be planning.

Clark didn't seem aware of the considering gazes Perry, Henderson, and I were all giving him. His own gaze had locked on the window, a muscle ticking in his jaw. When I followed the direction of his stare, I was somehow not surprised at all to see Superman floating just outside the apartment.

"Superman," I greeted him as soon as I had pulled the windows open wide enough to allow him to float into the living room. "Are you all right?"

Mud was sloughed over much of his suit, obscuring the blue and weighing down the cape so that he seemed shorter than he usually looked. His brow was lined, his eyes narrowed, his mouth tight, and his hands clenched into fists; if he had been anyone else, I would have said that he looked as if he were in pain. He remained floating an inch over the floor to keep the mud from staining the wood.

"I heard what happened," he said without answering my question, his glance taking in all four of us, lingering longest on me and almost entirely skipping over Clark. "I wish you to know that I did hand Nigel St. John over to the proper authorities. I was not aware that the—"

"It's all right, Superman," Henderson offered quickly. I observed with interest the slight flush adorning the inspector's cheeks. "This is the fault of my people, not you."

Perry stood abruptly, his weathered features pulled into a slight frown. "Let's not get confused here. This is Luthor's fault. We're doing what we can to bring him down—we're not the bad guys. Gettin' bogged down in misplaced blame isn't doin' anyone a lick of good."

"Regardless," Superman stated intractably, "I give you my personal word that I will do anything you need to bring this monster down." He met my gaze. "Earlier, you asked if I would help you in your investigation. Now, I give you my answer—I will not rest until this matter is settled."

I should have felt infinitely relieved, even ecstatic, already certain of victory with Superman on our side. Instead, I felt only immeasurably tired, a thin layer of weariness covering a soul-deep resolve to see Luthor pay for his crimes.

Henderson and Perry thanked Superman and began filling him in on the investigation in broad terms. Despite his evident tiredness, Superman listened attentively enough, nodding every once in a while, his eyes narrowed with concentration. It was a conversation that I would have dominated eagerly just the day before, yet now I felt distanced from it, as if it were happening somewhere far away.

My roving gaze fell on Clark, sitting alone and seemingly forgotten on the couch, his eyes locked on Superman. There was an oddly vulnerable, almost wistful expression casting a slant to his features, one that pulled me from my exhausted disinterest and tugged me forward to sit beside him. Immediately, he turned to me, that pensive expression still lending him a sad air even as he gave me a small smile.

"So…" I said, not sure why I had sat beside him in the first place. Not sure why I had more attention to spare for Clark than for Superman. Desperately, I cast about for a valid topic. "That disguise you wore today—I almost didn't recognize you."

He shrugged, the hint of another smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Disguises have always worked well for me."

I nodded before realizing how absurd that statement was. "Wait a minute! What do you mean, disguises always work for you?" I scoffed with a spontaneous grin. "That Charlie King persona was ridiculous! I recognized you right away!"

A real smile made the shadows congregating about him skitter away and hide in shame. "Oh, yeah?" he retorted. "If I recall correctly, Charlie King was a lot more effective than Lola Dane."

"Only because Charlie King turned out to be a Benedict Arnold!" I replied quickly.

"Charlie King might have betrayed you," Clark said, his words suddenly charged with some tension I refused to identify, his hand placed carefully, tenderly, over mine. "But Clark Kent never would."

If I tell you, Lois, you'll die.

I could never hurt you, Lois. It's impossible for me. I care too much.

The phrases ran through my mind like a mantra that soothed, a litany that promised things I had first realized I wanted while listening to careless words dropped so tenderly as I restlessly slept in a blackened cell.

"I know that," I heard myself saying—promising him. There was a tension almost matching Clark's in my own voice, one I couldn't explain, one that made flames leap to life in his eyes.

"Clark." Superman's stern voice broke the moment as abruptly as if we had been splashed with cold water.

All expression vacated Clark's face as he turned to the hero. His jaw was clenched so tightly that I wasn't surprised he didn't say anything.

"I'd like to talk to you for a moment. Privately."

"I was waiting for you to ask," Clark said, his voice monotone. He paused, then swallowed, that wistful expression reappearing. "Are we…flying?"

For the barest instant, Superman's features…softened, turned more malleable, more understanding. Almost pitying. "Yes," he answered shortly, quietly.

"Then let's go." Moving stiffly, Clark rose and stepped up to Superman. The superhero nodded his farewells to Perry and Henderson, paused to offer me a tentative smile, then flew my partner out the window.

Henderson adjured me to caution one more time, gave me a last warning glare, and let himself out with the excuse that he had to look into the two missing officers. Perry stayed a while longer, doing his best to make me laugh, and even succeeding a time or two. In fact, by the time he left with a last fatherly hug, I was feeling much better. Not only had Clark smiled at me—one of the real, bright smiles—but he had actually seemed almost willing, in a resigned sort of way, to talk with Superman, who had given me his own, private smile.

Best of all, and maybe a key contributing factor, was the fact that the pills the medic had given me had actually kicked in, dulling the insistent burn in my arm and smothering the tempo in my head. Their effect was doing such a good job of convincing me that pain was a thing of the past that when Perry left, I felt awake enough to turn to the papers and files stacked in inconspicuous spots throughout the living room and start looking for every mention of Nigel St. John.

About an hour after he had flown out the window, Superman returned with my partner. Strangely, Clark's eyes were sparking with anger, an emotion he had shown only a handful of times before. I was as surprised to see it now as I had been the first time I realized that he could get angry—when he snapped at a cop who had demonstrated a callous sense of humor over a dead man.

I kept my arms folded over my chest as I met Superman's gaze. The urge to throw myself into his arms was almost overwhelming—the same urge I experienced every time he grew near me—but it was tempered by Clark's presence and the tiny, niggling feeling at the back of my mind.

The feeling that said that mudslide in Ecuador had come at an extremely opportune moment.

And the fact that I could even entertain such a suspicion made me horribly angry at Clark. He was, after all, the one who had planted such awful thoughts in my mind, the one who was now standing in the middle of the room and watching Superman and me with narrowed eyes and clenched fists.

Superman seemed unaware of Clark's angry glare; he stared into my eyes as if we were alone in the room. "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you, Lois."

"You can't be everywhere at once," I told him, the niggling feeling coiled within me loosening and retracting the slightest bit. "You're the world's superhero, not mine."

For the first time since his return, Superman lifted his hand and traced the edge of my face, ghosting along the bruise adorning my temple, compliments of Nigel. "Still…I don't like to see you hurt."

"Well," I forced a smile for his sake. "No harm done. Clark was there."

Superman's hand dropped to his side. I wanted to turn and observe Clark's reaction, but the intensity of Superman's powerful gaze stole my breath and my ability to control my muscles. "Next time," he promised, "I will be there for you."

"I know that," I replied, then could have kicked myself when Clark turned abruptly and walked into the kitchen. I had used the same words, I realized dismally, the same words I had used with Clark in that quiet moment between the two of us—and I had given them to Superman as easily as if they meant nothing.

Superman curled his hand around my shoulder one last time, half-moved forward as if to kiss me, then stopped and cocked his head in a gesture I could have sworn I'd seen several times before.

"What is it?" I inquired, intrigued by the realization that he was hearing something that could have easily been as far away as another city.

"He's calling me." Superman stepped toward the window, his hand dropping to his side.

"He?" I repeated as I stepped after him. "Who's 'he?'"

He tilted his head again, his entire countenance filled with impatient anxiety. "I have to go. He needs me."

"But who—" My hair fluttered across my eyes, the curtains billowed with a cold wind, and Superman was gone. Slowly, trying to sort out the plethora of emotions filling me up and pushing aside rational thought, I closed the window, shivering from the chill that leaked inside, wishing for a bit of warmth.

Almost reluctantly, I looked toward the kitchen. Clark was clearly visible, his back toward me, his shoulders hunched as he concentrated on his task at the counter. Tact and patience, I reminded myself for no other reason than that it gave me an excuse for my sudden self-consciousness as I joined him.


He was cutting up some sort of meat, I observed. A pan was already sizzling with butter or grease or some other unfathomable ingredient, and it threw off sizzling sparks when Clark placed the meat inside and set a lid over it.

"I thought I'd make us some dinner," he explained, carefully avoiding my eyes. "We missed breakfast and lunch."

"Are you mad?" I asked bluntly, giving up on trying to catch his eye or read his expression.

He stilled, the profile of his face as solemn as if etched in stone. "I'm not mad at you, Lois. I'm…I'm tired of this. I don't…I thought I was done feeling this way. But…"

"Dinner will help," I offered when his words seemingly ran out. "Skipping a meal always makes me a bit grouchy."

He chuckled, a sound so surprising that I bumped up against the kitchen island. "Is that what it is?"

"I don't miss that many meals." I made a face at him that he must have caught out of the corner of his eye because he laughed.

"Here." He handed me an assortment of vegetables. "Could you cut these up for the salad?"

"If you provide detailed instructions," I returned pertly and was rewarded with another laugh.

Dinner was as delicious as all the other meals he'd made for me; I was quickly realizing that giving him the cooking chores had not been the way to keep a trim figure.

"No dessert," I warned him when I finally gave up on finishing the portions he had dished out and pushed my plate away.

"No dessert?" he repeated playfully. "I thought I was talking to Lois Lane."

"Well, there can be dessert another time," I conceded. "But only if it involves chocolate."

"I promise." He held up his fingers in the scout's salute.

I stood to take my plate to the sink, but Clark stood at the same moment, and our hands collided on my plate. Suddenly, it was impossible for me to look away from the sight of his hand over mine—impossible to think past the warmth of him so near to me. It always surprised me when I realized how tall he was.

"I'll do it," he offered, and strangely enough, there was nothing different about his voice or his expression. As if he didn't notice how close we were, how well our hands fit together, how short my breath had suddenly become, how the kitchen had seemed to shrink in around us. As if moments like this were such a commonplace occurrence for him that he had learned to function normally during them.

"Thanks," I offered weakly, then surrendered my plate and hurriedly sat down. Idiot! I raged at myself. If I continued this way, he was sure to think I had a concussion after all! I had to pull myself together and stop confusing Clark for Superman.

The silence was unnatural after the easy banter that had peppered our dinner. I stared at Clark as he began washing the few remaining dishes and cleaning off the counters, inwardly urging myself to find some topic of conversation that didn't involve asking him what had transpired between him and Superman that had left him so angry.

"I can't believe we lost Nigel!" I exclaimed before I could think better of it. Of course the only topic I could come up with was the one that weighed so heavily on my mind, I thought exasperatedly. "It's unbelievable that even the police are in Luthor's pockets."

"We'll get him back," Clark said calmly, though the set of his shoulders gave away the tension he exhibited whenever Luthor's name came up.

"We shouldn't have to!" I proclaimed hotly, feeling all the anger that the pain and the pills had earlier kept at bay. "He was more than enough to get us a warrant, but now, thanks to a couple officers' greed, we're back to square one!"

Clark was silent as he drained the dishwater and carefully arranged the washrag over the sink. Finally, he turned and looked at me, his tone painfully casual. "It's curious that Superman didn't pick it up."

"Pick what up?" I asked cautiously, certain I wouldn't like the answer.

"That the officers were corrupt. Even a man used to betrayal would surely feel a bit of anxiety when planning to double-cross Superman, and his hearing easily picks up heartbeats."

"Everybody's pulse races when Superman shows up," I commented dryly. Stubbornly, I refused to allow myself to really listen to Clark's warnings. Superman, I reminded myself, had been saving lives from a mudslide.

"There's a big difference between excitement and guilt." There was such sureness imbuing Clark's voice that I couldn't help but believe him. And, since he was the foremost expert on Superman's abilities, it was hard to argue with him.

"That's why he's promised to help us catch Nigel again," I finally settled for saying. "He probably feels as badly about it as we do."

Clark said nothing, and the descending silence was heavy with the beginnings of a blanketing tension I didn't like, one that left me in the dark as to what he was thinking. A tension very different from the invisible cord that had bound us just two hours earlier.

"So…" I began desperately, wanting to break that silence, wanting to banish the feeling of being isolated from Clark. "What about that interview yesterday? You didn't say much."

If I could have, I would have taken the question back. Why, oh why, couldn't I find a topic that didn't include Superman? It was almost as if I were asking Clark to fill my head with even more irritating, paranoid fancies!

Clark's brow wrinkled, and he studied me closely, probably as curious about my new topic as I was. "What should I have said? You told me a long time ago that you asked the questions. It's not like you were interviewing me."

"You know him better than anyone!" I blurted out. "And tonight, he—"

"Do I?" Clark shook his head and dropped into the chair across from me. "He's hard to talk to, hard to reason with. He seems to keep everything to himself. You must have noticed that he didn't tell us much."

Something within me snapped—probably my strained patience. Or maybe I just hated squirming beneath all the doubts his words stirred up.

I straightened in my chair and glared at him across the table. "You know, Clark, I have tried to be patient with you, but you have got to stop with this anti-Superman spew! It's not as if his life has been a bed of roses! He said he could never go back to his planet—he's all alone here, the only one of his kind! He could use someone to lean on, someone to depend on, someone to come to after long days or hard rescues that don't turn out well. He could use a…" I paused, abruptly aware that I was revealing more of my own fantasies than I had meant to. "Well, a friend. I know he wasn't there when you needed him—and I know there's obviously some sort of bad blood between you now—but I am asking you, for my sake, to just give him the benefit of the doubt."

Clark studied me a long moment, turmoil evident in his eyes. When he did speak, his voice was tight and strained. "All right."

Remembering the bleak mood of his letter and the hurt implicit in his posture when he had walked away earlier this evening, I softened. Superman, I realized, was not the only one who needed a friend.

"Clark, speaking of someone to talk to…are you sure you don't want to call your parents? Or write them a lett—"

"No!" His response was immediate, almost panicked. He cast a quick glance around the apartment, as if expecting an enemy to leap out from behind the potted plants. "No," he said again, marginally calmer. "I can't risk leading him to them."

"Clark." I spoke slowly, enunciating each word, reaching out to grip his forearm. "Superman is protecting us. He wouldn't let anything bad happen."

"Like he did earlier today!" Clark snapped. Remorse instantly darkened his features, and he brought up his opposite hand to place over mine on his arm before I could even open my mouth. "I just…I don't want them in danger, Lois. I can't…I can't let anything happen to them."

"All right," I agreed with a short nod. Why was it so hard to stay mad at him? "Besides, when we write our major expose on Luthor—with your name prominently featured after mine—I'm sure they'll see it."

"Yeah." His tone was contemplative as he stared at my hand, cradled between his.

"Anyway." I shrugged uncomfortably and pulled my hand free, wincing when my arm twinged in numbed discomfort. "It's…getting late."

"Are we exchanging secrets tonight?"

I paused in my rise from my chair, trying to interpret the emotion infusing his voice. Clark was, unbelievably, even harder to read than the aloof Superman. "Do you want to?"

He met my eyes without hesitation. "Aren't you really asking if I have enough secrets to continue to exchange?"

I couldn't help but smile, relieved to be back on familiar ground. "You did say last night that you didn't have anymore."

"Well, I haven't written a romance novel," he said with a mischievous grin, that teasing lilt to his voice making me smile automatically, which really took the sting out of my "Hey, that's a secret!"

"Sorry," he said, though he didn't look all that guilt-stricken.

"That's all right," I granted imperiously before smiling. "Although, I will say that you're the only person I've ever admitted that particular secret to."

He grew somber, his gaze intent on me as if he were hearing so much more than I was really saying. "I'm…honored…that you trust me so much."

"I do trust you," I said seriously, refusing myself the coward's way out of shrugging it off with a laugh and a joke. I owed him, after all—both because he had saved my life and because I had hurt him tonight, even if only unintentionally. "Probably more than I should. Even from the beginning…there's just…something about you that…makes sense to me. That makes me want to trust you."

"You have a lot of faith in my integrity."

"Faith is believing in something you can't prove," I told him, relishing the chance to edit his copy. "This isn't faith—it's confidence."

Clark looked…well, flabbergasted.

I bit back a smile, pleased that I could confuse him almost as much as he could confuse me. "So, anyway, that's my secret. What's yours?"

"I could say that I trust you too, but I don't think that's a secret."

Barely restraining a snort, I contented myself with a shake of my head.

He nodded, paused as if to gather his thoughts, then blurted out, "I found something in Trask's warehouse—a file detailing where Superman's ship landed."

"What?" I bolted to my feet and stared down at Clark in shock, but he didn't give me time to snap out my questions.

"I also found his ship—it had his S-symbol on it. And there was a tiny globe that responded to Superman's DNA. When I touched it, it warmed and changed from a map of Earth to a map of Krypton."

Krypton. Superman himself had told me that had been his home planet.

"I didn't see any of this!" I sputtered.

Clark stood and held out placating hands. "I know. I'm sorry." Remorse flashed across his face as he confessed, "I took the globe with me and hid it."

"Where is it?" I looked around, which was silly, since the globe wouldn't miraculously appear out of thin air.

Clark's smile was oddly triumphant, his gaze centered on the windows behind me. "I gave it to Superman. He had it put in his Fortress of Solitude."

"His what?" I repeated, stunned by yet another revelation.

"His Fortress of Solitude." Clark's stare became uncharacteristically intense. "You should ask him about it sometime."

I wasn't sure if he meant the globe or the Fortress, but I said, "I will." I paused a moment, then, cursing the fragility apparent in my tone, asked, "Why didn't you show me this globe, Clark? Why did you hide it from me?"

"I…" He looked away. "I didn't know if it was in Superman's best interests."

I gasped. "You didn't trust me?"

"No, Lois!" His tone was tender, his eyes caressing me, his hand on my cheek reassuring me. "I do trust you. It's just..." He grimaced. "I panicked. And it wasn't only my secret to tell."

"Hmm." As I studied Clark's face, I wondered, not for the first time, why he had been the one to become Superman's confidant. We had both covered Superman's first stories, but Clark had been granted so many confidences while I…hadn't. But then…Clark was a good friend—the best—and he'd never betray secrets, not even for a story. I wouldn't now, but I wasn't so sure that I wouldn't have earlier. After all, I hadn't thought I'd ever steal another reporter's story either.

"I'm sorry, Lois." Clark's thumb brushed across the edge of my cheekbone. "I'm telling you now."

"Yeah." I smiled up at him, suddenly content. Superman might not trust me with his secrets, but Clark trusted me with his, and that was special all on its own.

The moment seemed to stretch out into infinity, the kitchen around us shrinking to enclose just the two of us in a tiny patch of light. Suddenly, it was impossible to catch my breath, as if Clark's proximity was sucking all the air out of the room.

"Well," I said, shifting a step away. Why did the fact that his hand slipped from my cheek suddenly seem like such a loss? "We'd better get some sleep. We have a lot to do tomorrow."

I turned to go but stopped when Clark said my name.

"Lois, you really should ask Superman about this. Ask him what color the globe turned when it changed. Ask him where his Fortress of Solitude is."

I studied Clark for a long moment. He was trying to catch Superman in a lie—even doped up and exhausted, I could tell that—trying to prove the superhero wasn't as good as everyone knew he was. But what would he do when Superman passed this test?

"All right," I agreed, more than ready for Clark to realize that he was wrong about this. And he was wrong. Superman was the good guy. "What color is the globe? Just so I know beforehand."

"Red and blue," he answered.

"And the Fortress? Where is it?"

Clark shrugged, something almost predatory in his sudden smile as he looked toward the windows. "The North Pole, of course."

And Then There Was Light

A Lois & Clark Story
by Anti-Kryptonite

Part 14 of 23

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